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REAX | Federal Court Accepts Adani Indigenous Land Use Agreement

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Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council spokesman Adrian Burragubba (right) addresses a senate inquiry in Brisbane, Monday, March 13, 2017. The inquiry is examining legislative changes which could affect Adani’s proposed Queensland coal mine in the Galilee Basin. Attribution required: AAP Image/Dan Peled

UPDATE | The Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council have reacted to Friday's decision by the Federal Court to dismiss their appeal against Adani's Indigenous Land Use Agreement. 

They said the result confirms that when it comes to Aboriginal rights in Australia, “near enough is good enough” under the Native Title Act.

The Council said it will not give up, but instead consider grounds to seek leave to the High Court and work to build public pressure on the Queensland Government to accept their part in dividing their people and ignoring their rights.

The full bench of the Federal Court today dismissed the appeal brought by five W&J appellants against the certification and registration of the Adani ILUA.

The Council noted the decision hinged only on the question of whether the certification and registration of the Adani ILUA were handled according to the legal requirements of the Native Title Act. It did not ‘pull back the veil’ on the contested dealings leading up to and after the Adani meeting more than three years ago.

The Council said no one can draw any conclusion from this decision that those attending the Adani meeting were actually entitled under the laws and customs of Wangan and Jagalingou people to sign away their rights in land for monetary compensation.

Wangan and Jagalingou Council senior spokesperson, Adrian Burragubba said: “Today [Friday] is NAIDOC. A day of celebration for our community, where we come together to share our culture, and our dreams and aspirations, with our families and friends, brothers and sisters. We join together in strength as First Nations people.

“But this is a day to remember. On ‘black fella day’ the Full Bench of the Federal Court denied us our right to stand up and say 'that's our land and we're not going to give it away'.

“We don’t intend to give up. We will build public pressure on the Queensland Government to accept their part in dividing our people and ignoring our rights.

“In keeping with international law, there has never been any free prior and informed consent when it comes to this ILUA with Adani. A lot of our people were played into position by the Government and Adani and stitched up by a legal process they have no control over.

“We will continue our fight with the support of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, as demonstrated at NAIDOC here in Brisbane today,” he concluded.

Murrawah Johnson, a spokesperson for the Wangan and Jagalingou Council said: “Our Council will continue to pursue all legal and political avenues in opposition to the coal mine and the destruction of Wangan and Jagalingou Country.

“We will review the decision of the Federal Court and take legal advice. We will consider any grounds to seek leave to the High Court. The Adani ILUA has been upheld, as Justice Perry said, “notwithstanding any deficiencies which might have tainted the validity of the certification”.

“With Adani commencing initial works, our focus will shift to exposing the failure of the State Government in issuing the mining leases without an ILUA and without consent.

“Today’s decision does not retrospectively validate the Queensland Government’s abysmal conduct in backing Adani and stepping on our rights.

“We will challenge the issuing of environmental approvals, given without regard to First Nations cultural rights in our land and waters, and the plants and animals that depend upon them.

“We know we have always had a fight on our hands. That fight is not just with Adani, but with the Federal and Queensland Governments. It is shameful that the State delivered mining leases to Adani without an ILUA or our consent, and twice the Federal Government intervened in our cases to ensure Adani’s interests, including in this most recent appeal”, she concluded.

EARLIER | An appeal by traditional owners opposed to the Carmichael coal mine in Central Queensland has been dismissed in the Federal Court.  

The Indigenous land usage agreement could permanently extinguish native title on the site within the Galilee Basin.  

Opponents showed up to the Federal Court on Friday hoping to overturn a decision handed down in 2018 that found an ILUA between Adani and the Wangan and Jagalingou people was valid.

Spokesperson for the W&J Council, Ms Murrawah Johnson, earlier said the "pending decision in Kemppi v Adani Mining Pty Ltd will hinge only on the question of whether the certification and registration of the Adani ILUA were administered according to the legal requirements of the Native Title Act".  

On Friday, that appeal was rejected.  

The Conversation reports the Queensland Government will not extinguish native title over land Adani needs while outstanding Traditional Owners’ court action is unresolved.

EARLIER | The Federal Court is due to decide on the certification of Adani's Indigenous Land Use Agreement on Friday.  

The Conversation reports the Queensland Government will not extinguish native title over land Adani needs while outstanding Traditional Owners’ court action is unresolved.

Members of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Family Council (W&J Council) are contesting the validity of Adani’s Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA).

The Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners oppose the Adani Carmichael mine development on their lands.

The Full Court has listed the above matter Kemppi v Adani Mining Pty Ltd for judgment at 9.30AM.  The decision will be announced via videolink in Brisbane and Sydney.  

Adrian Burragubba and Wangan and Jagalingou community members represented by the W&J Council have been challenging the Adani mine for four years through the courts and were almost prevented from having their current appeal heard because of the huge financial barriers to people seeking to hold corporations accountable in Australian courts according to Grata Fund.  

“The story of the Wangan and Jagalingou community and Adani is part of a broader story in Australia, where many First Nations communities are prevented from accessing their rights because of the huge expense involved in bringing important public interest cases to court, and the massive imbalance in financial means between these communities and the corporations they are seeking to hold accountable under the bright lights of court,” said Isabelle Reinecke, Founder and Executive Director of the Grata Fund.

Upon application for hearing the appeal in the Full Federal Court, Justice Robertson said he believed Mr Burragubba and his co-plaintiffs do have a case to be heard.

Grata Fund reports that despite this, Adani asked the court for a guillotine order forcing Adrian and his co-plaintiffs to provide $160,000 as surety before the case was heard. Justice Roberts reduced this and ordered the five appellents pay $50,000 into court within a matter of weeks or drop the appeal.

Still too much for the community to cover alone, Grata Fund was able to step in and provide the $50,000 required within hours of the deadline.

Senior spokesperson and cultural leader of the Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council, Mr Adrian Burragubba, is expected to address the decision during NAIDOC events in Brisbane on Friday.  He will address the assembly at Musgrave Park, South Brisbane at around 11:30AM.  

Mr Burrauggba will talk about the decision of the court and the ongoing struggle of the W&J Council to expose the lack of Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) for the Carmichael Coal Mine, irrespective of the outcome of the case.

Speaking from Townsville, spokesperson for the W&J Council, Ms Murrawah Johnson, said the "pending decision in Kemppi v Adani Mining Pty Ltd will hinge only on the question of whether the certification and registration of the Adani ILUA were administered according to the legal requirements of the Native Title Act".  

“It will not ‘pull back the veil’ on the corrupted process leading up to and after the authorisation meeting. Nor will it confirm whether in fact the people in attendance at the Adani meeting were entitled under the laws and customs of Wangan and Jagalingou people to make that decision to sign away W&J rights in land for monetary compensation” she said.  

By Michelle Price